March 23, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee scored seven of its eight runs with two outs and held off a late Auburn rally in an 8-6 Volunteer win Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
For the second straight week in league play, the 29th-ranked Tigers (17-8, 4-2 SEC) were unable to finish off a sweep after winning the first two games in the series - last week versus Texas A&M, this week at 14th-ranked Tennessee (19-4, 3-3).
“We fought really hard,” Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway said. “I told the guys I was really proud of their fight there at the end. We came back and fought really well, and our guys are swinging the bat better, but we’re still not running the bases very well. We had a couple of crucial mistakes.
“You feel good about winning series. That what college baseball is about, winning series. We’ve put ourselves in a really good position two weekends in a row. You’ve got to give Dave Serrano and Tennessee a lot of credit. They’re a talented group, and they’re ranked nationally for a reason. Again, we pushed them really hard at the end. We’ll go get a day’s rest and get ready to play at home.”
Auburn trailed 5-0 after three innings and 8-4 heading to the final inning, but cut into the deficit both times and had the go-ahead run at the plate with two out in the ninth. However, base-running mistakes cost the Tigers a pair of crucial outs and ultimately kept Auburn from a potential victory.
Trailing 8-4 and down to their final three outs, the Tigers loaded the bases after base hits from Austin, Blake Logan and Connor Short, then scored as pinch-hitter Keegan Thompson drew a nine-pitch walk to make it 8-5. A sacrifice fly from Jordan Ebert brought home pinch runner Anfernee Grier to make it 8-6. But J.J. Shaffer, who pinch-ran for Thompson, was thrown out trying to steal second and put the tying run in scoring position, ending the threat and the ballgame.
Auburn’s first four runs came courtesy of a pair of home runs by Blake Austin and Ryan Tella. Austin blasted a one-out, three-run shot over the left-field wall in the fourth inning, cutting a 5-0 deficit to 5-3, and Tella put one off the right-field scoreboard in the sixth to make it 5-4.
Tennessee jumped on top in the second inning, stringing together four consecutive hits with two outs. A double by Taylor Smart was followed by an RBI single from David Houser to make it 1-0. Another single followed by Will Maddox, and he and Houser would score on a bases-clearing triple by Scott Price to make it 3-0. The Vols tacked on two more in the third to take a 5-0 lead.
But Auburn answered in a big way in the fourth with Austin’s three-run homer down the left-field line, scoring Tomscha and Tella to cut the deficit to 5-3. Tella would then homer off the scoreboard in right field, a solo shot, in the sixth to make it a 5-4 game.
However, Tennessee’s hot two-out hitting continued in the sixth. Three straight hits - a double from Houser, a triple from Maddox and a single from Price - brought home two more runs to make it 7-4. The Vols made it 8-4 in the eighth as Taylor Smart doubled, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Austin led the Tigers with a 2-for-4 day, driving in three with his home run and scoring twice. Sam Gillikin was 2-for-3, and five other Tigers had one hit apiece.
Sophomore Justin Camp (1-3) took the loss as he was touched up for three earned runs on five hits in his two innings of work. Michael O’Neal worked five innings of relief, giving up four runs on seven hits.
Andrew Lee (3-0) got the win for Tennessee with six innings of work, giving up four runs on six hits. Drake Owenby closed it out and picked up his fifth save of the year.
Auburn returns to Plainsman Park for a Tuesday night non-conference matchup with Kennesaw State. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.